I’ve been putting off this dreaded task for as long as I can. Going to the gynae is intimidating enough without adding language barriers to the mix. My friend recently recommended a doctor with decent English and suddenly I had no more excuses.
It was interesting to compare a Korean gynae visit to an NHS UK one.
1. You obviously have to pay in Korea whereas the NHS visit is free. The prices are very reasonable though and I only had to wait 10 minutes (without an appointment). Some procedures are covered by your insurance but not all of them (take your ARC along anyway).
2. Along with the PAP smear, you can also ask for a sonogram. I have never been offered a sonogram of my uterus ever before and wow, it’s amazing! You can even see what stage of your cycle you’re in!
3. The results are processed within a week. I remember having to wait a month or more for my results in the UK.
You can also have STD tests done: some tests are covered by insurance and others are not. The full series of tests for HPV, for example, would cost 230,000 won. Pricey, but there ARE different levels of tests so don’t let that put you off. Remember, HPV causes cancer.
Overall, I’d say this was a “pleasant” experience, all things considered. So many cancers are treatable if detected early enough. Don’t become a statistic because of nerves and a language barrier.
**In Pohang, you can go to the Yoon Clinic, in Idong, above the Baskin Robins at Sageori (4-way intersection) on the 4th floor.
Just over a year ago, I wrote my “101” list: the 101 things I’d like to do in the next 3 years. So far, I’ve been able to scratch 33 tasks from my list and this weekend I’ll complete #34. This is a biggy for me: completing the 4 Rivers Trail.
I completed the Geumgang on the first day of November, setting myself a new PB: 189km in just over 12 hours.
I started in Gunsan, ended in Daejeon and I found the signage to be a bit crap in places so I’d suggest doing it the other way around (like the book advises). It was a one-day affair for me: mostly flat and easy but long.
I bussed into Gunsan from Pohang late on a Friday night, slept very soundly in a motel behind the station (the bed was doubly inviting thanks to the electric blanket). I paid 50,000 won for the room, but I knew that the next day would be a long one so I allowed myself this little extravagance. After all, it had a bath tub and I scored 2 new toothbrushes for my bike cleaning kit! I was going to wake up at 6AM but it was so dark and snugly that I slept in until 8.
Riding along an estuary during autumn is pretty spectacular, with all the ducks practicing their winter flight formations. I saw hundreds of birds that morning. I met a Korean rider along the way who was finishing his last river. After we reached his final stamp booth, we posed for some photos and commemorated the occasion with a quick CU coffee and some Oreos.
He asked me if I wasn’t afraid of cycling alone. Lots of people have asked me this and yeah, if I were in another country, I wouldn’t cycle solo. I feel so safe in Korea. I feel extremely comfortable riding as a solo female in the dark, in the middle of nowhere and being lost. I have always found the Koreans I’ve met on my travels to be trustworthy, honest and helpful, despite my basic Hangul-skillz.
Soon after leaving the cyclist behind (at Iksanseongdangpogu Certification Center) I got horribly lost. I was following mile markers along the river when the path just stopped. I guess I crossed the river too early… I made a low-sugar decision to go by road until I found the next stamp booth… this lead to a stressful ride on a narrow road full of traffic and roadworks. There’s nothing more frustrating than watching the day fall away around you as you try to find your bearings. I was pretty relieved when I finally made it to Gongju-si. If I had more time I would have stopped for a look round, since there’s loads of cool history here.
As light gave way to dark I put my head down and the rest of my ride was pretty uneventful if misty. I had to cycle past a slew of restaurants on the way to Daecheong Dam: torture to a cold, tired, hungry cyclist and at the same time, the promise of rest and warm, soothing Korean food makes you peddle just that little bit faster. I swear there’s nothing better than any jigae, rice and beer after a long ride.
Tomorrow’s ride will be on a tight budget: it’s the weekend before pay day. I’m pretty psyched to know that I am so close to achieving my goal. Cycling Korea has been one of the best things I’ve ever done.
Sometimes the most random encounters lead too the most interesting experiences. Not so long ago, I was cycling along and this Korean guy started talking to me. I complimented his English level and he thanked me. It was a slightly awkward moment when he told me that he was an English teacher at a local high school. Face palm. Turns out he’s an ex-colleague of a friend of mine and boy, is he an interesting character.
Why Seabed? He chose his name because he believes in living deeply, and that everything he says and does comes from the depth of his soul. Poetic. I like it.
Apart from being an English teacher, he is a keen cyclist and photographer. He also casually mentioned that he circumnavigated Korea on a bicycle. This was a while ago but he managed it in two weeks. He also owns a Moulton bicycle with a Brooks saddle. Now, shame on me but I didn’t even know that Moulton existed and it’s a British Brand! I thought the only fold-up bike made in Britain was the Brompton (whose headquarters are opposite SEGA in West London). Turns out Moulton’s quite popular in Korea, what with their own member’s group and Youtube videos. If you like Abba, you should watch this vid:
Seabed told me about Kustom your Bicycle, useful for pimping your ride as well all learning how to spell bike components in Hangeul.
He’s quite into photography so it was great riding with him. We stopped at a few places along the way, he chatted up the old biddies so that we could get some character shots. It helps to speak Koran eh! Seabed showed me some of the photos he’s had published and told me about some noteworthy Korean photographers.
Jay Cheon Im (임 재 천) hails from Chuncheon and he collected a decade worth of photos of old-school Korea (small villages that capture the spirit old the Land of the Morning Calm). He published a book called “Korea Rediscovered” or “한국의재발”. Out of 1000 images he had to choose only 120. The book is available through Noonbit and retails at 40,000 won. I think that would make an awesome present for someone back home! He uses the Korean version of crowdfunder to help fund his projects and his contributors get limited edition prints in return for their help. Im is currently on Jeju island, where he is documenting the lives of the famous women freedivers, 해녀 . This project is also sponsored by his many followers. If you’re interested in Haenyeo, check out this documentary:
Two other photographers Seabed told me about are 이 갑철 (Gap Chul Lee) and 이 상일 (Sangil Yi). I reckon these webpages should keep you entertained for a while.
Finally, he also told me about a famous Korean poet who lives in Guryonpo, but that will have to wait until next time.
It took me a week to start catching up to the load of information Seabed dumped on me. It will take me at least 4 times as long to properly learn more about these subjects. I hope that you enjoy learning about them as much as I do.
A couple of weeks ago we celebrated Teachers’ Day in Korea. A lovely day where your students give you kitsch presents and cute notes about how much they love you. Teachers also got treated to 수박 (watermelon). I asked my co-teachers if Koreans ever use the rind for anything since the culture is very efficient at preserving and utilising food. They told me that some old-school grannies make watermelon kimchi but none of them have actually ever tried it.
I grew up eating watermelon jam in South Africa so I asked if it was popular in Korea. They were stunned to hear that such a thing existed. My mind was made up. I was going to have to introduce them to the syrupy gingery goodness of subak jam. I collected the left- over rinds and they just looked at me a little bit strangely.
I found a great recipe online. If you’re going to make this jam, you need time. Time to soak the rind in bicarb of soda and time for it to soak in water- basically a day’s pre-prep. I reduced the amount of sugar to 1kg, although I personally think after making it that next time I’d cut it to 500-750g. Make sure you don’t overcook the syrup at the end!
Here’s my end result:
I took a jar into school for taste testing during my “Friday Fun English” adult conversation class. Everyone was brave enough to try at least one bite and two people had seconds. Not quite the revolution I was hoping for but I’m glad that they got to try something new.
I plan to introduce them to South African melktert, Bulgarian Tarator soup and I want something British but I don’t know what to choose. They’ve all had apple pie before so I’m thinking Eton mess, Bakewell tart or mince pies. Or spotted dick. I’d quite like to work that into English class conversation.
I had my second treatment last night- two weeks after my first appointment. It was definitely more intense and more uncomfortable. I wouldn’t go as far as to say painful, but the sensation around my nose and eye sockets made me flinch a few times. I was wearing the same eye protection as before but the light seemed to be a lot brighter, and it felt like lots of extremely bright orange flashes, blinding sun flares inside my head!
The dermatologist asked me a few questions before we got started to check on post-procedure healing. Did my face crust over after he last treated me? Did I experience any pain or adverse effects? I had no crusting after the first procedure but he told me to expect crusting this time round because he increased the frequency of the light (no kidding). Have I noticed any changes to my skin yet? Other than the initial 2 days of looking mildly sun burnt, the main change I observed was having less spots, and since I only had the treatment 2 weeks ago, that could purely be a lovely hormonal coincidence. OR an indicator that the move away from regular alcohol consumption towards fruit and veg is finally starting to pay off. The big pores are still there. The deep lines on my forehead are still there. I don’t mind them so much because an elastic, expressive face is great when you’re a teacher.
My next appointment is in 4 weeks’ time. I should have 2 more monthly treatments after that, according to my research, to achieve visible results. After the initial 4, I should be able to switch to bi-yearly top-ups.
This is what my face looks like 1 day after fotofacial IPL #2:
I got a group of foreigners together who have passed the 1 year mark, which makes us eligible for blood donation in Korea. I also roped in a Korean friend to help us translate the forms.
Unfortunately, we were turned away. Apparently you can’t use a friend to help you with translation… which begs the question “how else would a foreigner know a Korean well enough to ask for the imposition of time that blood donation requires”??!
I am very frustrated with the system in Pohang. I know that rhesus negative is a very rare blood type and when (not if) I get run over while I’m cycling, I’d really like to know that there is blood available for my treatment. The way that the clinic in Pohang is currently operating is counter productive and puts foreigners at a huge disadvantage when it comes to medical care.
I plan to write to the mayor requesting that the system be made more accessible to foreigners.
UPDATE: My letter is in the system, being translated as we speak and hopefully we’ll see a big change on the horizon before the end of the year.
Health care is very affordable in Korea, so it would be silly not to make use it! EPIK teachers contribute towards a medical fund, making the trip to the doctor, dermatologist or dentist far less painful.
I used to be very bad at wearing sunscreen: during my 8 year scuba diving career I’d use SPF15-20 for the first two days in any new country. The rest of the time I would burn then tan. My face, chest and back were permanently in the sun. I hated sunscreen because using it lead to break outs. I’ve had a few moles on my neck and chest area ever since I can remember, but one sprouted on my face 5 years ago. That’s around the time I started wearing sunscreen regularly… The possibility of skin cancer always floated at the back of my mind so I decided to face up to the unknown.
I went to my local dermatologist to have my 4 moles removed. I had to present my ARC (Alien Registration Card) to prove that I was paying into a medical fund. The doctor had a look at my moles and surprisingly enough, they were all benign, which meant I had to pay the full treatment price (40,000 won/ US$40) instead of 20,000 won if they were dodgy (malignant).
The procedure was straightforward. An anesthetic cream is applied to the moles and left on for about 20 minutes. The doctor used a laser to burn the moles off. It felt like series of small zaps and I could smell the burning flesh but it was very bearable and over quickly.
I was given clear dressings to protect the wounds and to aid the healing process. I did a little experiment. I did NOT use the dressing on my face and neck but went swimming in the ocean and got sand in and all over my open wounds instead. I DID put dressing on my chest wounds. My chest wounds not only took longer to heal, but they also have more visible scarring although I technically took better care of them. The wounds on my face and neck were pretty much gone within 14 days but my chest wounds took about twice as long. Maybe I have weird skin… I know that next time I’ll probably just expose my wounds to sand, sunlight and seawater again 😉
It’s worth mentioning that getting a mole removed does not mean that the hair follicle is killed off. If you had a sexy, thick black hair sprouting from your mole it’s going to keep on growing afterwards so don’t throw your tweezers away just yet.
My friend gave me some dried whole coconut last night so I decided that since today is pretty wet here in Pohang, I’d make pancakes!
I grated up some coconut, made a cinnamon & sugar mix and then had a spark of genius! I grated some Jeju Orange chocolate squares onto my pancakes too. I cycled about 10km in the rain this morning, which is enough justification for winter calorific indulgence. We all know that 10km winter cycling is equivalent to at least 15km summer cycling, right?!
I haven’t had much luck with the store bought pancake mix (although the brownie mix is the bomb), so here is the super simple recipe I used:
225g / 8 oz plain flour or all-purpose flour
2 large, fresh eggs
600ml / 2½ cups milk
If you’re a patient soul, you should rest the mix for 15 minutes before using, but I didn’t actually read that bit and it still turned out fine. I got about 6 or 7 pancakes out of the mix and not a single flop. Yay me! 😉